In Short

In Windows Phone 8.1, users will be treated to a new, long overdue feature – a notification center. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android have this useful tool and now, it’s Microsoft’s turn. Although Live Tiles have so-far served as an adequate means to alert users of notifications, due to the increasing complexity of alerts and the segregation of essential versus non-essential ones, a dedicated center for notifications was needed. It was also one of the top-most requested features of users on Microsoft’s UserVoice feedback site.

In Windows Phone 8.1, users will be able to swipe down from the top of the display to reveal the combo Action/Notification Center. In doing so, the center will present more detailed information to the user, including detailed battery remaining as a percentage, SIM status and the full date.

The Action Center is found at the top of the page and it is has quick-action buttons that allow users to toggle frequently used device functions. Four buttons will be present for most Windows Phones, and a fifth added for devices with a 1080P display. Those buttons are configurable, allowing users to choose from a pre-sorted list of functions including brightness, airplane-mode, Wi-Fi, VPN, rotation lock, location, camera and more.

Below those quick-action buttons are two other permanent toggles: one for ‘clear all’ for notifications and another for Settings, which takes the user to the system settings directly. There, users can configure the action and notification center.

The Notification Center is found on the lower half of the display. It features a time-sorted list of incoming notifications that the user may have missed. Apps can be individually configured to have their notifications appear in the center. Likewise, non-essential notifications can be sent to the center as well, including updates to Facebook or Twitter where a banner notification and audible alert would not be necessary. These ‘ghost notifications’ augment the user experience by providing non-disturbing alerts. To dismiss the alerts, users can hit the ‘clear all’ button or swipe to the right to dismiss them.

Notifications in the center show their received time and a snippet of the message, including the first line of an email or Skype message.

The combo Action/Notification center is also smart. If a user is playing a game and they accidentally swipe from the edge, the Action center won’t appear. Instead, a blue line will be revealed, which a user can “grab” to pull the center down. This ensures that accidental swipes won’t disturb a user’s gameplay, as they would have to repeat the move deliberately to access the center.

The notification and action center can be accessed from any screen on the phone, with the caveat noted above for games.